After death (3 of 5)

Between birth and death we have experienced this or that with this or that person or plant or mountain spring, with all we have approached during life. There is no single experience whose spiritual counterpart is not engraved into the spiritual world in which we are ever present, even while on earth. Every hand-shake we have exchanged has its spiritual counterpart; it is there, inscribed into the spiritual world. Only while we are surveying our life in the first days after death do we have these pictures of our life before us. These conceal, to a certain extent, what we have inscribed into the world through our deeds, thoughts and feelings.

The moment we pass through the gate of death to this other ‘life’, we are at once filled with the content of our life-tableau, i.e. with pictures which extend, in perspective, back to birth and even beyond. But all this vanishes into the wide cosmic spaces and we now see the spiritual counter-images of all the deeds we have done since birth. All the spiritual counter-images we have experienced (unconsciously, in sleep) become visible, and in such a way that we are immediately impelled to retrace our steps and go through all these experiences once more. In ordinary life, when we go from Dornach to Basle we know we can go from Basle to Dornach, for we have in the physical world an appropriate conception of space. But in ordinary consciousness we do not know, when we go from birth to death, that we can also go from death to birth. As in the physical world one can go from Dornach to Basle and return from Basle to Dornach, so we go from birth to death during earthly life, and, after death, can return from death to birth. This is what we do in the spiritual world when we experience backwards the spiritual counter-images of all we have undergone during earthly life. Suppose you have had an experience with something in the external realm of Nature — let us say, with a tree. You have observed the tree or, as a woodman, cut it down. Now all this has its spiritual counterpart; above all, whether you have merely observed the tree, or cut it down, or done something else to it, has its significance for the whole universe. What you can experience with the physical tree you experience in physical, earthly life;now, as you go backwards from death to birth, it is the spiritual counterpart of this experience that you live through.

If, however, our experience was with another human being — if, for example, we have caused him pain — there is already a spiritual counterpart in the physical world; only, it is not our experience: it is the pain experienced by the other man. Perhaps the fact that we were the cause of his pain gave us a certain feeling of satisfaction; we may have been moved by a feeling of revenge or the like. Now, on going backwards through our life, we do not undergo our experience, but his. We experience what he experienced through our deed. That, too, is a part of the spiritual counterpart and is inscribed into the spiritual world.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 234 – Anthroposophy, An Introduction – Lecture IX – Dornach, 10th February 1924

Translated by Vera Compton-Burnett

Previously posted on April 5, 2018

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Kamaloka – How long does that last approximately?

Whereas here in life we can recollect all that we have experienced in our day-life, after death — after the time of the life-tableau is past — we obtain a memory of all our nights. This is an important secret which is revealed to us. We remember all our night-life. This review so presents itself that we really live backwards starting from the last night passed here in life, passing to the preceding one, and so on. In this way we experience the whole life again backwards, but as seen from the night-aspect. 

One experiences again in this retrospective recollection, what one has unconsciously thought and investigated. One really goes back through one’s life, but not from the day-aspect. How long does that last approximately? Now remember that we sleep away about one-third of our life. As you know, there are people who naturally sleep much more. But on an average we sleep away a third of our life. Therefore this retrospect also lasts about one-third of our earth-life, because we experience the nights. 

Rudolf Steiner – The Forming of Destiny and Life after Death: LECTURE 1: SPIRITUAL LIFE IN THE PHYSICAL WORLD AND LIFE BETWEEN DEATH AND REBIRTH – Berlin, 16th November 1915

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Thinking backwards

In Knowledge of the Higher Worlds you are advised to imagine things backwards from time to time. A backwards review involves picturing events as if they proceeded in the opposite direction from that in which they proceed in our normal world. Among other things, this picturing backwards gradually builds the spiritual forces that make one capable of entering a world that is the wrong way round when compared with the physical world. That is how the spiritual world is. It reverses many aspects of the physical world. […] People need to prepare for the future by getting accustomed to thinking backwards. Then they will begin to take hold of the spiritual world through this thinking backwards, just as they take hold of the physical world by means of thinking forwards. Our ability to imagine the physical world is a result of the direction of our thinking. 

[…] for someone who has gone only a little way beyond the threshold of the spiritual world, it is just as foolish to assert that the world only goes forward, never backward, as it is to say that the sun only goes in one direction and can never return! Of course it comes back along this apparent path on the other side. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 170 – The Riddle of Humanity: LECTURE EIGHT – Dornach, 13th August 1916

Translated by John F. Logan

Previously posted on April 17, 2019

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In the astral world all things appear reversed

Anyone whose senses are opened to the astral world will at first be bewildered, because there is really nothing in the physical world with which he can compare it. The astral world has a whole range of characteristics of its own and he has to learn many new things. One of the most perplexing aspects of this world is that all things appear reversed, in a sort of mirror-reflection, and he has to get used to seeing everything in a new way. For instance, he has to learn to read numbers backwards. We are accustomed to read the figures 3, 4, 5, as 345 but in the astral world we have to read them backwards as 543. Everything appears as its mirror-reflection, and it is essential to be aware of this.

The same law applies also to higher things — in the field of morality, for instance. People do not at first understand this. It may happen that they see themselves surrounded by black, malignant forms which threaten and terrify them — this happens with very many people and they mostly have no idea what it signifies. The fact is that these figures are their own impulses, desires and passions, which live in what we call the astral body. Ordinary people do not see their own passions, but these may sometimes become visible as a result of processes active in the brain and soul, and then they appear as mirror-images. You see the mirror-images of your desires in the same way as when looking into a mirror you see reflected images of the objects around you. Everything that comes out of you seems to be going into you. Further, time and events move backwards. In the physical world you see first the hen and then the egg. In the astral world you see the egg and then the hen that laid it. Time in the astral moves backwards: you see first the effect and then the cause. This explains how prophecy is possible — if it were not for this reversal of the time-sequence it would be impossible to foresee events.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 95 – At the Gates of Spiritual Science: LECTURE TWO: THE THREE WORLDS – Stuttgart, 23rd August 1906 

Translated by E.H. Goddard & Charles Davy

Previously posted on March 19, 2019

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The astral world

Let us now consider the astral world: It is the world in which we live every night and to begin with also after death. If we no longer open our senses to the physical world, the senses of the astral world disclose themselves. When we become clairvoyant, we first live in the astral world and perceive what has been described as the etheric body and the astral body.

The astral world greatly differs from the physical world. Those who enter it, face a confusing mass of phenomena. What they first perceive, is so different from what they were used to seeing, that they must first grow accustomed to the sight. They will read things wrongly if they begin to read them as in the physical world. For in the astral world everything appears as a mirrored picture, upside down, or in the reverse order. In the astral world the number 365 would be 563. Especially in the beginning, this is very confusing. In the physical world, when dealing with circumstances connected with time, we reckon everything from the beginning to the end. In the astral world it is the very opposite. In the astral world, a human life, for example, is not traced from birth to death, but from the last moment of life backwards. Here in the physical world first see the egg and then the chicken that slips out of it; but in the astral world we first see the chicken and then the egg.

The most important thing to be borne in mind is however that in the astral world all the images of our moral qualities, such as pleasure and displeasure, pain and joy, hatred and love, appear as if they were rushing towards us. A clairvoyant sees as if they were rushing towards him. To an unexperienced person this is very confusing. He may see all kinds of animal-forms, even terrible human forms, and so forth, rushing towards him. There are people who tell us of such experiences. They are really to be pitied, when through some illness they attain such an abnormal vision of the astral world. But when we begin to meditate in a serious way, when we school ourselves, then the clairvoyant power develops in a normal, regular way, and then we know what is taking place in the astral world.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 94 – Popular Occultism: 2nd Lecture – MAN’S ASCENT INTO THE SUPERSENSIBLE WORLD –  Leipzig, 29 June, 1906